STOURBRIDGE doctors have finally been given the all-clear to start transforming an historic foundry into a multi-million pound one-stop medical centre.
GPs at the town’s Worcester Street Surgery are now all set to proceed with their plan to turn Wollaston’s derelict Foster & Rastricks building in Lowndes Road into the Lion Medical Centre after councillors at Monday’s development control committee gave the thumbs-up to the scheme.
The grade II listed Georgian foundry - famed for being the birthplace of the famous Stourbridge lion steam engine - has lain empty since 2003 and is on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register.
But under the new plans - it will be given a brand new lease of life as one of the biggest one-stop health centres in the country, looking after 30,000 patients.
Dr Carol Griffiths from Worcester Street Surgery said: “As most people visit their GP four to five times a year most of the people of Stourbridge will be visiting this building - and we think it could be an enormous trigger for regeneration of this part of Stourbridge.
“We need a building like this to be able to increase the range of services we are currently providing. We have put an awful lot of work into this plan - and we think we can turn this into a building Dudley can be proud of.”
Chairman - cllr Tim Wright - spoke out in support of the application.
Amblecote cllr Colin Banks also gave his backing, adding: “I’ve still got a few reservations, but we have got to do something - or we won’t have the building for much longer.”
Wollaston cllr Malcolm Knowles, who originally slammed the proposal - saying the old foundry was the “wrong building for a health centre”, told the meeting: “The application is the best of a bad job.”
Cllr Knowles, the borough’s former cabinet member for regeneration and chairman of FARsite - which was set up to preserve the historic foundry, added: “This building is where the history of the US railway first started, we should be very proud of it and urgent works should be carried out.”
Many town historians have a soft spot for the old foundry as it was the birthplace of the first steam locomotive to run across America in 1829. The building itself is also architecturally important as it boasts a wrought and cast iron unsupported single span roof which - when built in 1820 - was the largest in the world.
Under the new plan - devised by the Worcester Street doctors and Quinton based developers Quadrant Land Partnership - it will be refurbished and extended to create a new state-of-the-art medical centre with 42 consulting rooms and more than 100 carparking spaces.
It will also include a lecture theatre and a range of primary care services.